What do you usually do when you know you don’t know?
If you’re like most people, you will probably guess, make assumptions, or in other words, wing it.
Do you give in to your habitual tendencies of assuming, or do you ask, clarify and get to know?
Ignorance is NOT bliss. It can cause you loss, harm and regrets.
In my 11 plus years of coaching leaders and business owners, I have observed that there are three key reasons people rush to assume instead of asking :
- Fear of rejection – “What if they say no.”
- Fear of judgement – “I will look foolish, will be laughed at.”
- Habitual tendencies – It’s quicker, easier to guess, assume.
People who have overcome these habitual tendencies know that asking leads to:
- More clarity and thereby less fear
- Reduced or eliminated assumptions, lesser chances of making an error, being misinformed
- Increased confidence, because when fear subsides, confidence surges
- Better quality of choices and decisions, good judgement emerges when you think through things with clarity
- Productive use of time and energy thanks to focused thinking, evaluating and acting
- The greater probability of desired outcomes because trials and errors are minimized, eliminated
The good news is that asking is a skill anyone can develop with deliberate practice and mindfulness.
Here are ten ways you can learn to ask without feeling stressed:
1. Embrace vulnerability. Courage will follow
Vulnerability is the act of opening yourself up to potential scrutiny judgement. It is acknowledging and accepting yourself as you are, getting comfortable with your shortcomings, weakness and still showing up.
When you do this often enough, you will stop worrying about the judgement of others and start being bolder, more courageous. You will admit when you don’t know and learn to ask, allowing greater clarity, courage and confidence to emerge.
2. Practice asking. Make it a habit
Asking for help can be uncomfortable. However, like any other skill, you can improve it by practising. Start with small asks, maybe with family and close friends first, then extend it to the outer circle.
Do it often and add more significant asks; this approach will make you stretch, help you grow and get better at asking.
3. Reduce mind chatter before asking
More often than not, you are likely to worry yourself out of asking.
In the process, you are also likely to develop numerous reasons why you are better off not asking. For example, how you are safer keeping quiet, that it’s best not to venture out and be exposed.
Please pay attention to the mind chatter, become aware, notice how irrational it is, and then work to quell it before asking.
A few ways you can reduce your mind chatter are:
- Taking a few deep breaths
- Writing down what exactly is running through your mind
- Closing your eyes and shifting the awareness to your body
- Going for a brief walk in nature
Making a request when you are focused and calm improves the quality of the ask; it also projects you as being clear, coherent and compelling.
4. Ask respectfully
Treat everyone with respect and dignity
Be mindful of this and ask in a manner that makes it easy for the other person to hear you out, evaluate your request and be favourable towards it.
How you make them feel about the ask impacts how they respond. Being respectful is one effective way to influence the outcome.
5. Ask for something specific
Vague requests can confuse the other person, make them defensive, get them to decline without understanding your needs.
Learn to state your ask in a specific manner, how much, by when, and why. If possible, display the benefit for both parties and make them aware of how their contribution matters.
The more specific you are, the less they need to assume and easier it is for them to give you their answer.
6. Ask in a straightforward manner
Respect the other person’s time, get to the point quickly
State your ask in a clear, concise manner leaving no room for doubts, assumptions and misunderstandings
Be patient and objective in answering the queries they may have
The more straightforward the process, the higher are the chances of your request being understood.
7. Expect to hear a yes
Optimism can be contagious, and everyone likes to be around others with a good mindset and attitude.
Please don’t assume, undersell or discount yourself before you even ask; People can sense your lowered confidence and change their minds. So put your best foot forward, ask confidently and expect to hear a yes.
8. Ask someone directly connected to your request
More often than not, people miss out on opportunities because they haven’t thought it through and have approached someone with no power, authority or knowledge on the topic.
Know what you want and why, know who can give it to you, and then approach them in the best manner possible.
Avoid all other distractions.
9. Ask again
Sometimes your ask may land when the other person is busy, distracted, upset, confused or tired.
Maybe it wasn’t clear in the first place; perhaps it did not even reach them, instead of assuming, check and clarify.
Approach them again and check if they are aware and if they are willing to honour it
You will be surprised with how many opportunities you have missed in the past because of preconceived notions, assumptions and presumptions.
10. Reflect and ask better next time
Despite your best efforts, you are likely to hear a no
That’s alright; its the nature of our lives; we cannot always get what we want
Use these opportunities to reflect, accept, understand what could have been done better, and learn, apply it the next time.
Points to Ponder
- What has helped you ask effectively in the past?
- How did you benefit from asking?
- Where do you need to assume less and ask more?
Asking for help is one of the most courageous things you can do. It’s a sign that you know what you’re doing matters and that you’re not afraid to ask.
The next time you find yourself in a situation where you are clueless, confused or in need of help, try to get to the bottom of it by asking. Instead of assuming, take the time to ask, clarify and get what you want.